Friday, January 26, 2007

Sundance '07

I don't have any fancy pictures or anything, you'll all have to talk to Steve about those, but I did get a chance to see three movies today at the festival. They were all documentaries.

First up: "Autism Every Day". This was a short 44-minute film and it seemed like it was an hour and a half. It had all the makings of a great documentary but somehow managed to stop short of each and every one of them. The film follows eight families with autistic children in them for 24 hours. Good premise, right? Well, they manage to stick strictly to that. I don't know any more about autism than when I went in except that it pretty much sucks to be a parent of an autistic kid. It was 44 minutes long and they could have easily gone feature length with an interview with a doctor that specializes in Autism explaining the mechanics of the disorder. A couple of parents talked briefly about how they are on the border of bankruptcy because they have to take care of their autistic kid and that would have been a perfect segue into a part on the failures of the American health care system. One of the grandparents of an autistic child mentioned that all the grandparents of autistic kids should get together and do something in the halls of congress. What should they do? The filmmakers never allow anyone to explain. What are the current political situations regarding autism that would require action on the part of the grandparents? They didn't explain that either. They also talk about how shocking the prevalancy of autism has increased. It's now 1 in 166 kids. I don't know how much it's increased though, the filmmakers forgot to tell me.

Overall, I think this would be a great first draft of a feature length doc about a pressing medical issue. And the subject matter was interesting, it just needed to be fleshed out. And the editing got rather sensationalistic at times.

Next: "Miss Navajo". This film revolved around the "Miss Navajo" beauty pageant held yearly on the Navajo reservation. I was mildly interested to see this film, a few of my good friends are Navajos and thought it might be interesting to see a different take on their culture. Overall, the film was generally mildly entertaining if not a little bland. You could tell the director cared deeply about the subject matter more than most audiences would, but that's the great thing about documentary film nowadays. The form has cheapened to the point where anybody can point a camera at something they find interesting. I say that as a good thing.

The film wasn't bad, but I can't see anyone who's not interested in the subject matter in the first place terribly interested in the film. I was quite curious to find out how much they spent on the film, but the filmmaker refused to answer the questions relating to the budget. It was beautifully shot though, he should own up to the fact that it cost money and if it didn't cost money, he should be screaming from the highest mountain tops how good his film looked without a substantial budget.

I don't have much else to say about this film. It's an interesting film if you're interested in Native American (particularly Navajo) culture. If you're not interested in life on the res, then it might very well bore you to tears.

The last film of the day was "Enemies of Happiness". I think this film was the best of the bunch and the most important. It documents the 2005 parlimentary of election in Afghanistan through the eyes of Malalai Joya, a woman who ran for parliment and was quite a national figure fighting for democracy in a misogynist society that has gone through more than a few governments in the last 25 years and was coming off the heels of the US led invasion. The reason I think this film is important is that it shows how primitive and chaotic a life in a middle-eastern country can be in a post-invasion environment. The environment was tense but generally peaceful when compared to Iraq and I don't think I could handle living in constant fear of my life. And that's another amazing thing in the movie, the subject, Malalai Joya, is such a preposterously strong and brave woman, it's a wonder that a country that has spent who knows how long oppressing women could produce such a strong national hero.

The cinematography was especially good in this picture as well. There were a couple of spots that it got a little heavy handed though. In particular, there were a couple of spots where they actually shot through a burka and I understand the intention but it takes you our of the story and makes you realize that you really are watching a movie that has human actors behind it.

Overall, it was a pretty good day at the festival. I tried to go see Hounddog, which was playing at the Tower Theatre tonight, but it was all sold out and the waitline was too long for me to brave.

We got a DVD of Calvin Reeder's "Little Farm" though and I'm quite anxious to see that after Quints review of it from the other day.

We're so busy on our film though, I'm not sure if I'll have time to catch more films, but I certainly hope so.

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